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An Introduction To Second Thessalonians

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I. AUTHOR: The Apostle Paul (with Silvanus [Silas] and Timothy)

A. More than 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians has been disputed by some (starting with the Tübingen School) with respect to Pauline authorship

B. Nevertheless, many in modern scholarship hold to the authenticity of Pauline authorship for 2 Thessalonians1

C. The Account of Paul’s founding of the church at Thessalonica is reported in Acts 17:1-9 (see below)

D. Silas and Timothy may well have shared in the authorship of 2 Thessalonians (first person plural) or were Paul’s amanuensis2

E. External Evidence, though not as strong as for 1 Thessalonians, still supports Pauline authorship:3

1. Ignatius, Philadelphians 4:3 [2 Thess. 3:5] (c. 110)

2. Polycarp, Philippians, 4:3 [2 Thess. 1:4]; 11:14 [2 Thess. 3:15] (c. 110-150)

3. Irenaeus (c. 130-202)

4. Justin Martyr (c. 150-155)

5. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)

6. Tertullian (c. 150-220)

7. Origen (c. 185-254)

8. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)

9. Eusebius (c. 325-340)

10. Jerome (c. 340-420)

11. Augustine (c. 400)

F. Internal Evidence

1. It is on the level of internal evidence that the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians is often questioned

a. Eschatology has been argued to not be Pauline because of its distinction with that in 1 Thessalonians, but 2 Thessalonians is discussing different aspects of end-time events than is 1 Thessalonians

b. The teaching of a two-fold judgment of the righteous and the unrighteous is affirmed to be post-Pauline, but it exists in Jesus’ words (24:15-22; 25:31-46), and agrees with later Pauline letters (Romans 2:5-10)

c. 2 Thessalonians is considered to have too harsh of a tone as compared with 1 Thessalonians, but the difficult situation which Paul is dealing with explains the change

d. Thessalonians is considered to have too great of an emphasis upon the Old Testament for its new Gentile converts, but the usages are all in areas which Gentiles would have been interested, and Luke includes an OT flavor among Paul’s messages to Gentiles (see also Mark’s use of apocalyptic material to his “Roman”/Gentile audience)

e. Some argue that 1 and 2 Thessalonians are too soon on the same subject to be Pauline, but there are also differences, and when they are combined with the similarities, Pauline authorship is the most reasonable

1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

Coming for Saints

Coming with Saints

Coming of Christ

Coming of Antichrist

Day of Christ

Day of The Lord

Speaks of Comfort

Speaks of Correction

2. Pauline authorship is asserted in a customary manner at the opening of the epistle (2 Thessalonians 1:1)

3. While it is true that Silvanus and Timothy are included in the salutation, and that Paul does use the first person plural in the letter (1:3,4,11; 2:1; 3:1,2,4,6,7,8,9,10,11), he also uses the first person singular (2:5; 3:17). As Guthrie says, “Paul would not have signed anything that he did not assent to, ...”4

II. The Founding of the Church

A. The historical context is Acts 16--18, especially Acts 17:1-9 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3--3:8)

1. Paul, Silas, and Timothy ministered on their second missionary journey in Philippi and left after their imprisonment and subsequent release (Acts 16:11-40)

2. When Paul and Silas arrived in Thessalonica they proclaimed Jesus as Messiah in the synagogue for three weeks causing some Jews, many devout Greeks, and leading woman to believe, but raising jealousy in the Jews to the point that the new disciples were severely persecuted before the authorities 17:1-9

a. Setting: When Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia they came to Thessalonica where there was a Jewish synagogue 17:1

Perhaps Luke and Timothy were left in Philippi to take care of the new church there

b. When Paul entered the synagogue and argued for Jesus as Messiah, some Jews, many devout Greeks, and leading woman believed and joined Paul and Silas, but the Jews were jealous 17:2-5a

1) Paul went in, as was his custom, and argued with them from the Scriptures for three weeks 17:2

2) Paul explained and proved from the Scriptures the death, resurrection and Messiahship of Jesus 17:3

3) Some Jews, many devout Greeks, and leading women believed and joined Paul and Silas 17:4

4) The Jews were jealous of Paul and Silas 17:5a

Paul may have stayed more than three weeks if he also turned to Gentiles for a ministry as he often did when the Jews rebelled

c. In an uproar the Jews sought Paul and Silas, but could not find them so they took Jason and some brethren before the authorities and accused them of disturbing the peace and of proclaiming another king against Rome, whereupon the leaders exacted a bond from them before releasing them 17:5b-9

1) Using some wicked men, the Jews gathered a crowd and set the city in an uproar 17:5b

2) The Jews attacked the house of Jason looking for Paul and Silas, but when they could not find them, they brought Jason and some of the brethren before the authorities 17:5c-6a

3) The Jews accused Jason and the brethren of harboring disrupters, and proclaiming Jesus as King against Rome (subversion as with Jesus) 17:6b-7

4) The people and city authorities were disturbed when they heard the accusations, so they took from the hostages a bond and released them 17:8-9

3. Paul and Silas went at night to Berea 17:10

B. Somehow Paul learned of the continuing struggle of the Thessalonians. Perhaps, he received a report from whoever delivered the first letter

C. The book is clearly written to a group of very new believers who were quickly brought into the faith and then immediately thrown into the “grasp of Satan” as persecutions broke out upon them (Acts 17; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 3:3); therefore, questions would immediately arise:

1. Were Paul’s words true?

2. If they were from God, why are they being hindered so by persecution?

3. Now what should they do?

a. Their faith was weak (1 Thess. 3:2)

b. They needed perspective on the disturbances which they were facing (1 Thess 3:3-4)

c. They needed to know how love worded its way out towards others--especially those who persecute them (1 Thess. 3:12)

d. They needed to know how “now” related to the future return of Jesus (1 Thess. 3:13)

e. They needed to know how far to take Paul’s exhortations toward godly living (1 Thess. 4:1-5)

f. They needed to know how to act within the church (1 Thess. 5)

III. ORDER:
While there is some question about the order of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 seems to presuppose the existence of 1 Thessalonians (“...hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth, or by letter from us....”)

IV. DATE AND ORIGIN: A.D. 51 from Corinth:

A. Paul was in Corinth a year and six months (Acts 18:11)

B. Paul’s visit to Corinth probably terminated shortly after Gallio became proconsul in Corinth (Acts 18:12-18) c. A.D. 51

1. The Delphi inscription (Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum or SIG II3, 801) makes reference to Gallio as proconsul of Achaia

2. This inscription can be dated to the first seven months of A.D. 52 (Claudius’ twenty-sixth acclamation as imperator)

3. Since proconsuls usually entered their office on July 1, Gallio probably arrived in Achaia as proconsul on July 1 A.D. 51

4. Paul’s eighteen months in Corinth (Acts 18:11-17) probably lasted from late summer of A.D. 50 to spring of A.D. 52

C. 1 Thessalonians may well have been written earlier in his time at Corinth when he received word from the return of Timothy and Silas about the church (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess 3:6).

D. Therefore, Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians in A.D. 50

E. After Paul learned of the news about the Thessalonians’ progress following the first letter, Paul probably wrote 2 Thessalonians

F. If Paul sent 1 Thessalonians at the beginning of his stay in Corinth, he may well have sent 2 Thessalonians within eighteen months of the first letter (or towards the end of his stay at Corinth) c. A.D. 51 (or 52)

G. Corinth is the last place where Acts places Paul, Timothy, and Silas together (though they may have been together afterward); Silas is not mentioned at Ephesus, and Timothy is associated with Erastus at Ephesus (Acts 19:22); therefore, Corinth is a natural candidate for the origin of the letter

V. PURPOSES OF 2 THESSALONIANS
1 Thessalonians was not as effective as Paul had hoped in dealing with the problem of idleness, and the παρουσία, therefore, 2 Thessalonians was written to continue the discussion

A. Paul wishes to correct false teaching that the Thessalonians are presently in the Day of the Lord (2:1-2) because they are already undergoing persecution (2:14-16)

B. Paul wishes to correct disorderliness in the church (e.g., not working because the Lord’s coming was so near) (3:6-16)


1 Bruce, Marshall, Thomas, Morris.

2 See Bruce, 1&2 Thess. Word., p. xxxii-xxxiii.

3 Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible, pp. 188,193.

4 Guthrie, NTI, p. 574.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines